December 25, 2003
A Heavenly Message
“Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy"
INTRODUCTION: The message of the angel to the shepherds was significant to say the least. The angel said “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” The same message which came to these watchers has come to us this day. What would this message say to us today?
I. The message comes to men who were wide-awake.
A. They were “keeping watch” over their flocks. That was their vocation, their job, their life’s calling. When the message came to them they were found faithfully performing the duties of their chosen craft. Where have you been placed? The Gospel message is not for only one small aspect of our lives.
We cannot compartmentalize, placing Christ’s birth into only one small portion of our complicated life. Christ came to men, as they were busy doing their job, performing their task. The message of salvation was given to theses men where they lived. It fit into the environment into which they lived. Likewise, the significance and importance of Christ’s birth comes to you and me in our life, where we live and work.
B. The time for the appointed message had come and it was given. It was given to them that they might believe. Likewise the message of the Savior’s birth has been given to you and to me, at this time and for this same reason that we might believe and live.
C. God did not wait for the world to wake up. The angel would herald the message of Jesus’ birth without warning and it was given directly to these shepherds. It was important that these men knew that the Savior was born – immediately the message went out.
In your life, the Savior did not wait for another opportune time for you to hear this message of salvation. At the appointed time at the acceptable hour this message of salvation was given to you for your redemption and life. It was given to you directly – through the clear message of the Gospel – which is found in the pages of Scriptures and in the blessed Sacraments.
D. If men sleep when the Lord comes, it is not His fault. The message of salvation has been delivered at the proper time. The carols, the greeting of this season; “merry, happy and blessed Christmas” as an expression is direct that all might know and believe that the Savior has been born, and has come to us for our salvation. The message is clear – Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy - for you a child is born, for you a son is given”, still many refuse to receive this message with joy.
II. The message came to disinterested workers
A. These men loved their flocks more then their own comforts. They worked the long hours because they felt a sense of duty and obligation to their jobs. Not much has changed over the years. There are countless people dedicating themselves to their jobs because they too feel a sense of obligation and purpose. Like these shepherds there are many people putting in long and tedious hours working at lonely and isolated jobs because of a sense of obligation and duty.
B. The visions that have blessed the world came to these men who watched while nations slept! The world hardly noticed that its Savior had been born. These men watch in wonder as the rest of the world slept. To us the announcement of Savior’s birth has been given. Does the world notice? Does this world seem to care? The only way in which the people of this world will know that to us a child is born and unto us a Son is given is for the Christian citizens to respond as these shepherds.
As nations slept these shepherds watched. As this world sleeps we need to be vigilant waiting for our Savior’s visitation, and then telling other of the wonderful things we have heard and seen. As these same shepherds returned back to their jobs, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen as it was told unto them” we in kind respond with the same message.
III. Is the fact significant that the message came to shepherds?
A. What inference should we draw from this fact? The Scripture is quite clear. “The Lord opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. While James mentions that God has chosen those who are “poor” in the eyes of this world to be rich in faith. (2:5)
Paul explains in 1Corinthians 1 “Brothers think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; nor many influential; not many were of noble birth…But God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one many boast before Him” (vv.26-29)
These shepherds were by no means wise, or influential by the world’s standards, nor would we guess that they were of noble birth. By the world’s standards the Savior was none of these either! Yet, the Savior makes Himself known to us in these hidden ways so that “no on may boast before Him”. No one would guess that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. No one would guess that He would be born in a stable. And no one would guess that His birth would be announced to shepherds.
But that was exactly the way in which He chose to make Himself known – in these hidden ways; in words from the pages of Scripture, in the water of baptism, in elements of bread and wine; in absolution, which is spoken.
B. This message has changed us. It certainly changed the shepherd’s lives. They had been told and they beheld the King, the Savior of the world, “wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger”. We too have heard and believe. For He has changed our life – as we have been drawn to Him.
CONCLUSION: The message the shepherds received is for you this day “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy…” To common shepherds this message was given. To people of a common faith we hear and believe. A blessed Christmas in Jesus’ Name.